Beat the clock |

Beat the clock

BRECKENRIDGE – We may think of classical composers as perfectionists who diligently spent months poring over their pieces, but two of the three pieces the Breckenridge Music Institute Orchestra performs Saturday were rushed afterthoughts.


Beethoven beats the clock

In December 1808, Ludwig van Beethoven produced a public concert – which lasted more than four hours in an unheated theater and included premieres of his fifth and sixth symphonies – for his own profit. He hired an orchestra and chorus for the grand event, but he neglected to finish the piece, “Fantasia for the Pianoforte,” they’d perform in a few days. Legend has it he wrote the orchestral and chorus part during rehearsals and improvised most of the piano portion at the premiere.

The piece opens with quiet ascending and descending arpeggios on the piano, followed by a fanfare of horns that introduces the main theme, which passes between the solo piano, orchestra and chorus in major and minor keys. The fantasy ends with a punctuated staccato rhythm as the chorus sings “Lohnt dem Menschen Götter-Gunst,” or “May God’s favor endow mankind.”


Never travel without music

While Beethoven created his own bind, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart simply traveled into trouble. A year after he married soprano Constanze Weber, he traveled to Salzburg, Austria, to introduce his family members – who didn’t attend the wedding (and reluctantly consented to the marriage) – to his new bride. On the way home, they stopped off in Linz, Austria, to visit Count Thun, a family friend. The count immediately announced a concert of Mozart’s music – but the composer hadn’t packed any music for the orchestra to play.

With the concert four days away, Mozart wrote his father, “As I have not a single symphony with me, I am writing a new one at breakneck speed.”

Mozart pulled off the stunt because he had perfect pitch and total recall (which he proved when he was 12 by writing down an entire opera from memory he had seen with his father). He named the symphony after the town he wrote it in, Linz.


In God’s time

Unlike Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy (otherwise known as “Fantasia for the Pianoforte”) and Mozart’s Linz Symphony, the composer of the first piece at Saturday’s concert had more time to write his piece. A fourth-century bishop originally wrote “Te Deum,” or “We Praise You, O God,” as a hymn, which worshippers regularly chanted in Catholic Masses. It is one of the most ancient and joyful texts in the Latin liturgy.

Franz Joseph Haydn wrote his own choral and orchestral version of “Te Deum” in 1765. It’s best described as a choral concerto because it doesn’t have solo passages that are typically part of Masses and oratorios from the era. He wrote it in the traditionally festive key of C major and included flutes, horns, trumpets and timpani.

The first section starts out with a C major chorus joyfully shouting over an orchestra march then moves briefly to C minor and a slower tempo. The final section returns to the characteristic cheer of the piece, closing with a double fugue to the words “In te, Domine, speravi,” or “In you, O Lord, I have put my trust.”

The Choral Extravaganza features the Virginia Symphony Chorus, mass choirs from Colorado and pianist Sandra Arndt, who is an adjunct professor of music and piano at Middle Tennessee State University and spent three seasons as a pianist with the National Repertory Orchestra.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. Tickets are $17, $22 and $27 ($7 for children) and may be purchased by calling (970) 547-3100.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at

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